How times have changed—when we last featured the great traditional Barolista Giuseppe Rinaldi in our newsletter more than eight years ago, we referred to him as “the least talked-about of the great old-style producers.” Today, we have a very different story.
With the world increasingly enchanted by the magic of classic Barolo, Rinaldi’s wines have taken their rightful place among the most revered examples of the Langhe’s old school.
And this is just as it should be, for Rinaldi’s methods are among the most traditional among Barolo’s truly great producers and his wines are monuments to this approach—powerfully structured, hauntingly perfumed, very slow to mature and completely without concession to current fashion.
Rinaldi states his philosophy this way: “I don’t want a wine that pleases easily ... when someone says I like it or I don’t like it and that’s it”, he told The Art of Eating’s Edward Behr in 2000. Rinaldi wants Barolo that is “austere, severe, that demands research. It takes time. You have to study, to think, to understand, like all of art. It isn’t simple but complex; it doesn’t please right away. It’s the opposite of a mass-produced product. It has angles, not curves. It’s not easy. A good Barolo ... is adapted to long aging.”
To this end he farms organically, ferments with the indigenous yeasts in his father’s and grandfather’s ancient tini—tall upright oak vats—without temperature control for a month, punches down by hand and ages in old botti grandi for 3 ½ years.
Like Maria-Teresa Mascarello, and her late father Bartolo, Rinaldi is a fierce adherent to the tradition of blending Barolo from different sites. He has old-vine holdings in some of Barolo’s greatest crus,but today he makes no single-cru Barolo. As he told Kerin O’Keefe of Wine News, “This is how the previous generations obtained a natural balance and harmony in Barolo, and, for me, it is still the perfect method.”
But, being Beppe Rinaldi, he does it his own way, creating two blended wines from four crus that are strikingly different from each other. Rinaldi’s best known wine, Brunate-Le Coste is dark toned and powerful.
His other Barolo, a blend of Cannubi San Lorenzo and Ravera, is by contrast more red-fruited and perfumed. Both wines are models of classic Barolo packed with all the majesty of which the “King of Wines” is capable.
Rinaldi represents the fifth generation of his family to work the land and make wine in the heart of Barolo, taking charge of the estate upon his legendary father Battista’s death in 1992.
In his forties at the time, he may have joined the ranks of the modernists, but Citrico—or the citric one—as he is known by his peers for his at times scathing directness, couldn’t have been more reverential of how his ancestors had done things and didn’t change a thing.
And for this the growing legion of traditional Barolo enthusiasts are very grateful.
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